How to tell if you have a sick Chicken
What are the signs to look for and what can be done
Firstly I should say I am not trained in Chicken Health and remedies etc. these are observations and things I've picked up during twelve years of keeping Chickens experience.
Keeping Chickens is not too distant an experience to keeping Kids, you get to know them, each have their own little character traits, their favourite spots and their position in the pecking order.
One of the most commonly asked questions in Forum is 'Is my Chicken ill' or 'I'm worried about one of my hens'. Luckily, our Forum is extremely active and there are quite a few people who have a reasonable level of knowledge on general Hen health and some remedies, depending on what it is of course.
All Chickens have their good and bad days, just like us, they may wake up in a strop or just have an off day, but there are symptoms of things not being right which are quite easy to observe. Most of these come on quite suddenly.......
Change of colour to Comb
I'm sure I don't have to tell you that the comb is their red floppy bit on top! A sign of ill health is they will often get paler and look drawn, it's a bit like us going pale.
Weight of a sick chicken
This is always very noticeable. When you lift the problem Hen and notice she has lost weight, there is something wrong. They can go very very light, you'll know when and if it happens, there's no mistaking.
The Chickens Eyes
These should be alert and shiny. A sick chicken's eyes will usually pale and have a glazed look.
Listless Chicken not moving or eating
This is a worry when this happens. A sick hen will find a place and seldom move even when hungry, if she's hungry at all that is. You can try and put a handful of pellets and some water beside her. Is he is sitting still but her weight and comb are OK, it could be she's about to go into a broody spell
Obvious signs of Injury
It may be your Hen has been attacked by either a Predator or another Hen. If she is showing blood, separate her quickly, it sounds awful but Chickens are attracted to blood and they will peck her.
Is it old age?
It's very hard to determine how long a Chicken lives as in old age, resources suggest anywhere from 7 - 12 years, but most of mine, being ex-battery hens seem to go on until about 5 or 6. Needless to say, should they live to a grand old age, they won't be laying eggs to the end. On average, a hen will be 'egged out' by the age of 4 or 5, but this varies depending on many things such as space to exercise, diet, Coop cleanliness and many other things.
All the above are just general indications of bad health, some are obviously more visual and if you suspect anything such as sour crop, egg bound etc., please post in Forum or if you can afford to and have an Avian Trained Veterinary Surgeon near you, follow that course.
We often hear of things like Maraks Disease but in the three years of Forum and nearly 4,000 Members, I have never come accross a case. Most things are either the Hen has had her time or she has died through injury. I've had chickens die at only one or two years old - no reason, they just go downhill over a couple of days and that's it.
We have to accept that nature is far greater than us and although we have a part to play in it, it will always have the final say.